377. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the actions his Department has in co-ordinating the policy driven targets across Departments since Travellers were given ethnic status. [45884/18]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): On 1 March 2017, then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, announced State recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group in Ireland: the Department of Justice and Equality played an important part in the lead up to this event.
The State's formal recognition of Irish Travellers ethnicity has been described as a "historic" day for Travellers and for Ireland. As you know, the announcement was greeted by sustained applause and a standing ovation in the Oireachtas.
This recognition of the distinct heritage, culture, and identity of Travellers and of their special place in Irish society was both symbolically and socially important in our work to overcome the economic marginalisation and discrimination of members of the Traveller community.
Following this statement, on 13 th June 2017, I launched the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017 – 2021. This Strategy contains 149 actions, grouped under ten themes, which are as follows:
- Cultural Identity;
- Children and Youth;
- Gender Equality;
- Anti-discrimination and Equality;
- Traveller and Roma Communities;
- Public Services
I chair a Steering Group which has the responsibility for monitoring and achieving progress on the implementation of the Strategy since its publication. The Steering Group consists of representatives of the Traveller and Roma communities, as well as of representatives of relevant Government Departments and Agencies.
These meetings provide an opportunity to review progress and to drive forward implementation of the Strategy. To date, work has been progressed on approximately 130 of the Actions in the Strategy. The Steering Group continues to monitor progress on these Actions and to focus on actions where sufficient progress has not yet been made.
In response to a number of priority actions in the Strategy, 4 sub-committees were set up to report back to the Steering Group:
- One of these sub-committees has been formed in the Department on the issue of data collection on ethnic grounds for equality purposes. Information was collected from Government Departments on what ethnic data is already being collected, as well as whether there are plans to collect this data where not already being done.
- A second sub-committee has been formed to deal with the issue of the retention of Traveller and Roma children in education. A proposal was jointly agreed between the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Education and Skills, and TUSLA to implement a pilot project on this issue in 4 different locations with high Traveller and/or Roma populations. Traveller organisations are in agreement with pursuing the proposal, and are keen to follow developments by means of future meetings of this sub-committee. The initiative would involve an increase in resources in each of the pilot locations. It was decided that one pilot of the initiative would be located in each of four TUSLA Education Welfare Services regions – South, South East – Wexford; West/North West – Tuam urban area; North Dublin/North Leinster – Coolock, Ballymun and Finglas; and South Dublin/Kildare/West Wicklow – Tallaght, Clondalkin.
- The third sub-committee was set up to deal with the problem of feuding in the Traveller Community. Resulting from that, an increase of funding for the Traveller Mediation Service for the expansion of its services was agreed and the expansion is commencing now.
- The fourth sub-committee has recently been established to look at actions that can be pursued to increase Traveller employment. This will examine the potential of Traveller entrepreneurship, social enterprise models, apprenticeships etc.
The membership of the four sub-committees consists of representatives of relevant Government Department and Agency officials as well as of the Traveller and Roma communities who have relevant backgrounds in e.g. education and employment creation in the Traveller communities.